Discover Houseboating: Where To Keep It?

Published in the July 2014 Issue July 2014 News Katie Burke

In the first two installments of this series, we talked about why you would want to buy your own houseboat and then how to go about securing financing. Before you’ve purchased your boat, you first need to know where you’re going to keep it.

Best case scenario, you should know what marina you plan on using before you purchase your boat. Yes, I’ve heard some stories where people bought a boat on a whim and everything fell perfectly into place. Please, don’t count on that happening in every circumstance. Some marinas don’t have slips immediately available. In fact, some have a several year waiting list, which is something to consider before you sign on the dotted line for a houseboat. Just like when you were looking at different houseboat manufacturers, choosing a marina should include considerations such as; cost, location, condition and amenities.

Slip Rental

Slip fees are determined by a number of different factors. Location, availability, amenities, the age and condition of the marina, and, of course, the size of your houseboat all play into mooring fees. As a general rule, you can expect to pay from $7 to $25 a foot per month, although some smaller-scale marinas may have a lower rate. The trade-off is a smaller marina may not be able to offer the same events, services and amount of dock neighbors a bigger place would be able to.

The tradeoff comes when you consider the cost of an upscale marina. A nice marina with more services will be at the higher end of the pricing scale. Your slip fee will help cover an exercise room, freshwater showers and dock Wi-Fi. The price will also increase if you opt for a covered slip. When you’re touring the marina, ask what is included in the price and what is extra. 

Make sure you consider your other boats. Is there space for your dinghy/PWC in your slip beside your houseboat, tucked in under the bow or attached to your swim platform, or do you have to make other arrangements for your runabout? Find out for sure before you commit.

Location

Your dream marina may be close to your house or a six-hour drive. Either way, the location is important. If it’s too close, it doesn’t really provide a get-away. But a long drive can be a deterrent for a quick trip. Knowing how often you plan on using your houseboat will make a big difference in the marina you pick and how far away it is from you house. You also should consider the commute to the boat during weekend traffic as it can sometimes make getting to and from the marina a real source of annoyance.

Condition

While beautiful, new facilities with a long list of amenities will customarily charge top rates. However, you should be wary of putting your boat at risk by choosing the oldest, cheapest marina available. Consider your slip fee in your budget before you even buy so you know what you can afford. Don’t take on more of a financial commitment than you can afford, but be cautious when picking out your marina. Cheaper options may have no security available. Any facility with rotting planks on the dock, sketchy-looking electrical connections and lights, an absence of security equipment, and loose or broken cleats is a guarantee for future problems.

Amenities

Certain amenities are absolutely essential for your houseboat. Fresh, clean water is necessary, if only to fill your tanks for drinking water. You may also want to consider whether a facility has dock carts, dock boxes, a dinghy dock and private showers and laundry facilities. If you really want to be pampered, some marinas offer swimming pools, spas, picnic areas and even tennis courts. These wonderful amenities are likely to be accompanied by higher slip rates, an important consideration for those on a limited budget. Most houseboat marinas have a certified mechanic, plus other support people on staff. While these services are an additional cost, it’s nice to know they are available if need be.

Having a few liveaboards on your dock is helpful because they may be willing to keep an eye on your boat. They are also great people to ask how management interacts with its tenants, what the vibe is during the busy season and other important questions that may not be part of the sales pitch from the marina staff. Visiting your prospective marinas to get a feel for the marina, its staff and the other boaters in the area is the best way to see what you’re getting into.

Dock neighbors can become like a second family. Depending on whether you are looking for a party or prefer a quieter setup, choose a slip near boaters with similar interests. There is nothing more bothersome than being in the midst of several partying boats while you are trying to enjoy quiet time. So pick the slip that fits your need. Likewise, with young children, big dogs and smokers, pick your crowd and find the right marina where you can moor for several years to come. 

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